EPA sued over inaction on cruise-ship pollution

Agency accused of failing to respond to 7-year-old request
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Environmentalists sued the Bush administration Wednesday over its inaction on pollution from cruise ships, saying the government has failed to respond to a petition filed more than seven years ago by groups seeking tighter controls on sewage and toxic discharges from the fleets of “floating cities.”
Friends of the Earth asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to order the Environmental Protection Agency to act within 60 days on the request for monitoring and regulation that was first submitted in March 2000.
The Clinton administration issued a preliminary report and held public hearings in three cities in September 2000, but the EPA appears to have dropped the issue since President Bush took office in 2001, the environmental group said. It said the agency has periodically given assurances, most recently in October, that its report would be issued shortly, but has never followed through.
In the last seven years, “we’ve seen tremendous growth both in the cruise ship industry and in the research that shows the impacts from cruise ships on our nation’s waters,” said Michael Robinson-Dorn, lawyer for Friends of the Earth. “Yet the EPA has chosen to do nothing in response to this research.”
Dale Kemery, an EPA spokesman, said Wednesday that the agency has been preparing a report in response to the original petition. “Once the report is finalized, it will be released for public comment,” Kemery said. He said he had no information on a release date.
The petition submitted by 53 national and regional environmental groups in 2000 described cruise ships as “floating cities that produce enormous volumes of waste,” with a “dismal environmental record” and little government oversight.
Citing EPA records and cruise line reports, the petition said a typical cruise ship on a one-week voyage discharges 210,000 gallons of sewage, 1 million gallons of “gray water” from sinks, showers, galleys and laundries, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water. The ships also generate 8 tons of garbage and an unknown amount of toxic wastes such as used paints and chemicals, the petition said.
Federal law prohibits dumping untreated or inadequately treated sewage within 3 miles of the coast and bans visible oil discharges within 12 miles and toxic discharges within 200 miles. Garbage disposal is forbidden within 3 miles of the shore, and some types of garbage can’t be dumped within 25 miles. There are no federal restrictions on discharges of gray water, which the petition said may contain detergents, oils and other harmful substances.
California, one of four states that regulate cruise ship discharges, prohibits all dumping, including gray water and treated as well as untreated sewage, within 3 miles of the coast, said Teri Shore, Friends of the Earth’s project director in San Francisco. She said the state’s authority to exceed federal regulation of sewage is unclear and has been the subject of discussions between California and the EPA.
E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

~ by fredfelleman on May 10, 2007.

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